Nearly 130 years ago, our family celebrated their first Christmas in America, bringing with them many holiday traditions that are still honored today. From Christmases past to present, here are some customs that make this season so special to us. May they inspire you to make your holidays more merry and bright. Cheers!
1st Generation, James and Ellen: A Full House
The first generation of our family set a high bar for holiday entertaining. Having 10 children, James and Ellen Rowe Concannon always had a full house. But the more the merrier, and they graciously welcomed visitors inside their home to enjoy the simple pleasures of good food, good wine, and good company. Guests also had the pleasure of sitting at a well-dressed table featuring our great grandparents’ best Irish linens. Ellen was so well recognized for her hospitality, that she became known as “the entertainer of the Livermore Valley.”
2nd Generation, Joe & Nina: Decking the Halls
Bringing a love for decoration from her native Italy, our grandmother Nina Ferrario Concannon enjoyed adorning the family house with festive flair during the holidays. This included elaborate, handmade nativity scenes from her homeland that have been passed down and are still used today. She also displayed beautiful, handmade stockings, ornaments and decorations like wooden toys, glass bulbs, and stars. To represent our grandfather Joe’s Irish heritage, she decorated the hearth with handmade holly wreaths, which are also still hung every year.
3rd Generation, Jim & Helen: Sweets of the Season
As soon as the last Thanksgiving leftovers are polished off, Helen puts on her apron and begins a season of baking. She is especially famous for her traditional Irish Christmas Cakes (moist fruit cakes soaked in sherry), which the family always indulges in on Christmas Eve. Her Christmas cookies are also legendary. The annual assortment of sugar cookies, almond pine nut cookies, rum balls, and gingerbread men is an all-hands-on-deck production: all of us (young and old!) love to help cut, frost, package, and deliver them to friends and family. This year, Helen is sharing her much-loved almond pine nut cookie recipe with all of you! Click here for Helen’s almond pine nut cookie recipe.
4th Generation: Secret Santas & Festive Performances
With 5 and 6 generations, our family is blessed to be so big. As a result, we like to choose Secret Santas to keep gift-giving simple. When everyone is together for Thanksgiving, we each write our name on a wine cork and toss it into a bag. Then each person grabs one cork out, and whoever’s name is on that is cork is the person they give a gift to for Christmas. Being a big fan of music and theater, John also loves to get everyone together for Christmas performances. This includes everything from making trips into San Francisco to see The Nutcracker and staying home to watch holiday classics like White Christmas.